A detachment of the Nigerian Army on Saturday, 12th December, 2015 opened fire on unarmed members of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria who were holding a peaceful procession on the streets of Zaria, Kaduna State.
The Islamic organization claimed that hundreds of its members were mowed down in cold blood. Among those killed were Hajia Zeenat and Aliy, wife and son of the organization’s leader respectively. Among top members of the organization who were killed were Shaykh Mustapha Sa’eed, Shaykh Ibrahim Usman, Shaykh Jummai Gilima and Shaykh Muhammad Turi, the leader of the Kano Center of the group.
The Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC) strongly condemns this massacre of peace-loving and law-abiding citizens. We denounce the well-known belligerent posture of the Nigerian military towards unarmed civilians as manifested in this massacre. It is reckless, lawless and barbaric. It is wanton exhibition of lack of respect for human life and an open infringement on Allah-given fundamental human rights of defenceless Nigerians. It is impunity of the highest order.
We reject the army’s claim of reacting to an attempt by the group to assassinate the life of the Chief of General Staff. It is laughable, ridiculous and unacceptable. It is an infantile after-thought, a cock and bull story to which only the marines will listen.
The Islamic Movement of Nigeria has no record of violence during its annual processions. On the contrary, the Nigerian Army seems to have marked the group for elimination as manifested in its unprovoked attack on the group in July last year (2014) which claimed the lives of three of Shaykh Al-Zakzaky’s sons as well as more than thirty other members of the group.
The army’s claim that the procession blocked the access road appears more plausible but it could only have slowed down the movement of traffic and does not warrant a massacre of this proportion. In comparison, the disruption of traffic movement caused by the Islamic organization in Zaria is a child’s play when considered against the background of the notorious blockade and heavy traffic caused by the Redeemed Church on Lagos-Ibadan expressway which causes untold suffering to thousands of travelers.
Thousands of commuters and road users are known to have slept on the road as a result of the traffic congestion caused by the church on Lagos-Ibadan expressway. Many programmes have failed because of the holdup. Weddings have been truncated as either the bride or the groom (or both) were held up in the traffic conundrum. Hundreds of motorists have been forced to turn round and return to their destinations for the same reason.
Is the Nigerian Army telling us that none of its vehicles have ever been caught in the traffic gridlock on Lagos-Ibadan expressway? Did the soldiers get down and start shooting members of the Redeeemed Church who caused the gridlock? Something is seriously wrong here. We can see different strokes for different folks.
By the way, is it not an open secret that Al-Zakyzaky’s members hold their procession once annually or at least during their festivals? Is it also not well known that apart from some of its special programmes, the Redeemed Church programmes come up at least once every month (every first Friday of the month)? This translates to the Muslim group disturbing traffic once or twice in a year while the Christian group causes traffic congestion more than twelve times in a year. How is the Nigerian Army able to stomach the group that disturbs so frequently but it descends heavily and murderously on the group whose frequency is less?
This killing is one too many. It must not go uninvestigated and unpunished. The army must be accountable. Our democracy is a fraud if soldiers will not submit themselves to civil authority. Heads must roll in the military for this latest extra-judicial killing otherwise nobody will be safe from military rascality in future. We are not in the days of military rule. The Nigerian Army must be subjected to the rule of law. It is high time Nigerians were told who is in control: General Muhammadu Buhari or the military?
We remind Nigerians of the root of the current Boko Haram insurgency. We must look back and remember where we came from because today was born from the wombs of yesterday. Members of Boko Haram started peacefully until their leader was killed extra-judicially and their headquarters was destroyed by machine gun-wielding and armoured tank-brandishing troops.
The latest trigger-happiness in the Nigerian army is capable of repeating history. We do not want a situation whereby members of Al-Zakyzaky’s organization who have hitherto been peaceful will become radicalized and militarized. The only way to ensure that this does not happen is to punish those who gave the order for the massacre. We therefore submit a case of use of excessive force on unarmed civilians against the Nigerian Army.
Without prejudice to the army’s highhandedness in this matter, Al-Zakyzaky’s followers should organize their rallies with civility. They should engage the services of traffic policemen and arrange their members in a thin line of two in a row.
Our investigation revealed that the Emir of Zaria Alhaji Shehu Idris once changed his route due to the heavy traffic caused by the organization’s long procession. Even former Governor Mukhtar Yero was once affected. We appeal to the leaders of Zazzau Emirate to dialogue with Shaykh Al-Zakzaky with a view to finding a lasting solution to the problem.
MURIC invites the National Assembly (NASS) to quickly wade into the matter. We appeal to the Defence Committee of the two arms of the NASS to probe the killings and to pursue the matter to a logical conclusion. We also demand adequate compensation for the families of those murdered by the army.
It is most disturbing that Al-Zakzaky’s members claim that their leader’s whereabouts is unknown. There are rumours that the army arrested him. We hereby demand that he should be produced safe and sound latest by tomorrow, Tuesday, 15thDecember, 2015. The law says no Nigerian should be detained beyond 48 hours after which he should be produced in court. We advise the Shaykh’s followers to approach a competent court to seek the enforcement of the Shaykh’s fundamental human rights should the army fail to produce him as requested.
Finally, we hereby request the Nigerian Human Rights Commission to investigate the circumstances surrounding this gruesome massacre. We call on the international community to put pressure on the Nigerian authorities and their military to check the latter’s aggressiveness, lawlessness and criminal propensity. The human rights record of the Nigerian military is at all time low. At a time when the whole world is seeking ways of de-radicalising extremists, the Nigerian military appears bent on militarizing peace-loving and law-abiding Islamic organizations.
Professor Ishaq Akintola,
Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC)
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